The twelfth annual Healthy and Safe Swimming Week is happening this week, May 23–29. Every year in the week leading up to Memorial Day–—the swim season kickoff–—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) promotes tips, resources, and guidelines for swimmers, parents of young swimmers, and aquatic professionals to put health and safety first when it comes to summer water activities. Formerly referred to as Recreational Water Illness and Injury (RWII) Prevention Week, this observance is a great time for local health departments (LHDs) to spread the word about the important steps their communities should follow to prevent illness, drowning, and pool chemical injuries.
This year’s theme is “Check Out Healthy and Safe Swimming.” Michele Hlavsa, RN, MPH, Chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, encourages swimmers and parents of young swimmers to check for public aquatic venue inspection results online or onsite and to do their own inspection before getting into the water.
“Environmental health practitioners, or public health inspectors, play a very important role in protecting public health. However, almost one-third of local health departments do not regulate, inspect or license public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds,” said Hlavsa.
One important way LHDs can celebrate Healthy and Safe Swimming Week is to take advantage of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) Network. The purpose behind this network is to raise awareness about and increase the use of the MAHC, an extensive resource developed by the CDC, state and local public health partners, and aquatics professionals. The MAHC provides science- and best practices-based guidance on decreasing the risk of recreational water illness, drowning, and pool chemical injury. The MAHC Network aims to engage current state and local MAHC users, subject matter experts, and those seeking support to use the MAHC. One of the cornerstones of the Network is a bi-monthly webinar co-hosted by NACCHO and the CDC, which highlights examples, challenges, and successes associated with adopting the MAHC from the perspective of state and local health departments. If you aren’t already a member, consider joining the MAHC Network today!
May’s webinar featured Jim Rada, Environmental Health Services Division Director at the Jefferson County Public Health Department serving suburban Denver. Rada shared key insights and lessons learned from taking a lead role to adopt the MAHC for the state of Colorado. Listen to the full webinar for Rada’s step-by-step presentation of using the MAHC as a guiding resource to streamline Colorado’s water safety regulations.
In addition to the MAHC Network, the CDC’s Healthy Swimming webpage offers an array of resources for public health professionals, swimmers, residential pool/hot tub owners, and medical/aquatic staff. Local and state health departments are especially encouraged to order and promote CDC’s free print and online materials. The CDC also provided a multitude of tips and facts from subject matter experts during their highly-informative Twitter Chat on Monday, May 23. All the tweets from this chat can be viewed and shared by searching the hashtag #HealthySwimChat.
And last but not least, stay tuned! The 2016 MAHC (2nd edition) will be released this summer. The MAHC is updated regularly to ensure it stays apace with the latest science and industry advances. To get involved with the guidance updates, join the Council for the MAHC, which oversees the update process and submits to CDC for final consideration. You can also sign up for MAHC-related email updates by submitting your email address in the “Get Email Updates” box on the MAHC website homepage.